It’s rant time.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend and, through that conversation, I realized that it gets on my nerves, even more than I thought, when someone condemns a situation or circumstances without knowing all the facts.
Here’s an example. A woman finds out her friend’s husband has been cheating on her. Rather than get divorced, the friend decides to go to therapy and work through the issues so that she and her husband remain married. Divorce is not a word they believe in unless it’s absolutely necessary and maybe this one cheating incident isn’t worth a divorce. The woman gets all up on her high horse, proclaiming that she would never, EVER stay with a man who cheats on her. Once a cheater, always a cheater and he’s just not worth my time and I can do better and all that jazz. It causes fights between her and her friend, to the point that they can no longer continue their friendship.
Here’s a second example. A couple in their late 20s, dating for 9 months, decide to get engaged. A friend who’s been through a broken engagement decides that it’s too fast and starts pontificating that people shouldn’t rush into marriage and gives 4782 reasons why not. The friend makes valid points but the couple just isn’t listening. They don’t want negative opinions. They don’t care about negative opinions. They know what’s best for them, even if it might not look like it to outsiders (note: there are exceptions to this. We can talk about that another day if you’d like).
In both of these scenarios, there are dozens of detractors saying what they’re doing is wrong. They cite their own personal “experience” as the guiding force in their opinions. They don’t have all the facts. And not only that, your situation might not match the one you’re criticizing. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, you don’t know the conversations that have been had, and you don’t have all the information. You have speculation along with snippets.
It’s difficult to make a fully formed opinion with minimal detail.
And even if you have personal experience with a situation, you cannot, with any certainty, say what you will or won’t do when faced with it again. Because things change and you can’t possibly predict what other mitigating factors might impact your decision. Married to a cheater? Maybe you have kids now and it’s not so easy to kick their dad out of their lives. Moving in with someone you’ve been dating for 5 months? Maybe there are financial reasons behind it. Have your kids at a grocery store in their pajamas at 9:00 at night? Maybe the babysitter bailed or the milk ran out unexpectedly or a kid is sick and you can’t leave them at home while you get medication.
While it’s easy to say, with certainty, what you’d do in those hypothetical situations, especially if it’s contrary to what you’re witnessing, what you’d actually do is probably very different. Nothing is ever as clear cut as we think it is. You’re not psychic, and you certainly cannot predict your emotions. And, whether you like it or not, emotions, even more than money, guide most of our decisions. Trying to decide if you’re going to stay in a marriage (or even get married) is nothing like buying a couch. Sure, you can vet the prospects, list pros and cons, and you know what’s rational and what’s not, but when it comes down to it, you’re most likely going to let your emotions make the decision. Not a list on a piece of paper or statistics or research or an ill-conceived blog post.
So, unless you know all the factors behind why something looks the way it does, keep your mouth shut. I can’t keep you from thinking and judging (not going to lie, I do it, too, and it’s completely wrong most of the time), but if you have the balls to comment, you best be prepared for pushback and disagreement. Your opinion doesn’t always matter, it isn’t always necessary, and sometimes, even if you disagree, the best thing to do is just support your friend’s decisions.
(Note: this in no way applies to any sort of domestic violence/bullying/serious mental health situation. It is that severe, you best step in and do whatever you can to protect your friend)
P.S. One more thing. We’re so quick to praise those who do what we think they should do; think about how we praise women who walk away from cheaters without a second look. But it is harder, WAY harder, to stay and work through an issue than it is to leave. We should be giving those women their due praise instead of criticizing them so openly.